Studio: Liden Films
Streaming on: Funimation
Overpowered protagonists are a staple of fantasy and isekai, and the concept is starting to wear thin. One Punch Man’s second season underwhelmed after the smash success of the first, while no one seems to be able to manage to muster up any love or hate for the recent seasons of Sword Art Online. At this point, all but the most die hard fans of Seven Deadly Sins have dropped the series, so I have to wonder if we’re done with these kinds of anime.
This has only been exacerbated by the new wave of these types of shows, with relative hits like The Hero is Overpowered but Overly Cautious and The Misfit of Demon King Academy. Both of these shows are self-aware parodies of the genre’s most egregious excesses, but fall prey to the trap of serious and dramatic endings that undermine the comedy by embracing the thing that they were supposed to be making fun of. I can’t speak for the anime community at large, but there has to be some significant changes if they’re going to keep this trope fresh.
So today we’re taking a look at perhaps the worst example of a light novel title I’ve ever seen, Suppose a Kid from the Last Dungeon Boonies Moved to a Starter Town. I swear, at this point they’re just complete sentences with subjects, verbs, and dependent clauses. The fresh change this week is that our demigod protagonist is a sweet kid who comes from an entire village of overpowered freaks, so he’s not yet aware of his power yet. And to keep the word count of this review under 30,000 words, I will be referring to the series as Tatoeba Last Dungeon from this point on.
Lloyd is a simple kid who wants to go out on a grand adventure and join the military academy in the capital, but everyone in his hometown is concerned that the weak boy will be no match for the perils of the big city. However, this village was founded by adventurers who cleared the last dungeon and have each killed a Demon Lord, so their weakest resident is somewhere in the power range of a tactical nuclear missile.
[There will be minor spoilers for the first two episodes of Tatoeba Last Dungeon]
The cinnamon roll is a relatively recent movement that rose in the wake of the moe boom of the 2000s, though the term is usually restricted to the young male protagonists of shonen series. The term itself just refers to a character with a soft and gooey interior, as well as an equally warm and pleasant exterior. There’s a lot of variation in the bakery, however, everything from Shoyo Hinata from Haikyuu to Bell from Danmachi. These kids are little balls of sunshine that are just a joy to watch, and Lloyd’s cut from the same cloth…dough? How far am I taking this analogy?
Lloyd is diligent, humble, and friendly, like any good cinnamon roll must be. He’s the weakest person in his hometown, so he hasn’t been able to rely on brute force in any part of his life. As such, when he rolls into the capital and starts flinging behemoth grasshoppers like they’re normal sized grasshoppers, he’s much too casual about feats of strength that outclass even the most powerful warrior. Just from the first episode, he crossed the entire continent on foot in a matter of six days, while his grandfather claims he could have done it in two.
The supporting cast has a ratio of about 9 women to every man, because what kind of show did you think this was? It doesn’t quite yet feel like a harem, but it’s definitely the makings of one. Lloyd saves a fellow initiate at the academy, Selen, who promptly falls in love with him, and the ED is your typical waifu lineup. Furthermore, Selen’s proper character introduction, in both the show and the OP, is in her underwear, because what kind of show did you think this was?
At the very least, the writers are aware that this kind of obsession after meeting someone exactly twice is creepy, what with the yandere framing of her infatuation, her usage of “Lloyd-sama”, and the fact that they have only met twice. Concerning the rest of the girls, they’re mostly fine. Marie has good comedic timing and reactions, and Riho, the fullmetal mercenary, just wants to use Lloyd’s immense power for an easy profit. Overall, there’s clear reasons why these girls would fall into his orbit, as well as reasons for any potential romantic development to come from that orbit, so that’s already better than 90% of all power fantasy harem anime.
Of course an ensemble comedy also needs to have good chemistry, and pretty much everyone bounces off of each other nicely. At this point, the primary cast hasn’t really been cut out from the secondary, but out of the characters shown so far, I’d be reasonably satisfied with any of these side characters getting more of the spotlight. There’s no obvious weak links in the writing of these characters, with one exception.
Alka, the chief of Lloyd’s village and a nigh omnipotent magic user, also is a clear cut “ten year old girl who is actually 1,000”, and I am just exhausted. Alka as a character is fine in the small doses we’ve seen so far, she’s even funny, casting minor misfortunes on Marie for calling her a ‘loli grandma’, I am just at the point of writing off most shows that come out in 2021 and still use it. The series is clearly aware it’s a trope if they’re going so far as to lampshade it, but that doesn’t bring this dead horse back to life. This is just the particular point where the unoriginal writing really begins to bring the whole show down.
However, one area in Tatoeba Last Dungeon where I have almost no complaints is in the presentation. There’s a surprising amount of attention poured into the show, not just for the action or the fan service, and the high quality of the animation is really commendable on the part of the studio. Nearly every major character hits that sweet spot of ‘almost but not quite chibi’ style that they’re going for, and having such a consistent visual style is always going to boost a show up in my eyes. The only character design I really have an issue with is, again, Alka, whose face falls more into the creepy category, rather than the cute one I imagine the team was going for.
The series utilizes a very soft and bright color palette, and that goes so far to creating an inviting world for the audience. There’s this element that makes the whole thing look like it was coming out of a fairytale, and I think communicating the homeyness of this world is pretty important. Since the whole series is from Lloyd’s perspective, and there’s very few things in this city that can threaten him, it’s no wonder that the whole capital feels like a breeze to him.
Now, the entire aesthetic of the show is really geared towards this cute quality, so I’m going to dump on it one more time for the fan service. I understand for some people, they like going into a show and getting a bit of fan service, but for me, it depends entirely on the type of show. I’ll be the first person in line to defend the educational value of High School DxD, but this just feels like someone’s trying to sneak sex appeal into a kid’s show, it just doesn’t fit the kind of story they’re telling. I mentioned Danmachi before, which does a lot of the same things as Tatoeba Last Dungeon, but the fan service works significantly better because it’s a more generic ‘anime’ art style.
Now, darting back to that cozy feeling this show does a really good job of creating, the music is actually quite good. They could have just riffed off of some of the basic JRPG tracks from towns and forests, and there’s certainly some of that, but the soundtrack is geared more towards maintaining that pleasant atmosphere. And I usually don’t praise a show’s sound design, as it’s one of those things that kind of melts into the background if it’s done well, but I did not expect this show to have this good of sound design. The first time Lloyd throws a punch, I was taken off guard when it felt every bit as meaty and forceful as a punch from Attack on Titan. It doesn’t quite gel with the rest of the show, but it’s an interesting detail nonetheless.
As a whole, the series sells the comedic aspects well, I personally get a chuckle every time I see Lloyd fling a grasshopper out of his way, but it depends on whether or not you’re getting weary of these tropes. I’ve come off a string of fairly similar shows, and the diminishing returns are increasing at an alarming rate, and it is unfortunately coloring my overall opinion of the show.
With credit to the voice actors, sound team, and animators, Tatoeba Last Dungeon is a pleasant way to spend 22 minutes each week. The slapstick works, the characters are charming to a point, but the writing rarely strays into greatness often enough to provoke real laughter. It’s a good popcorn anime, if you’ve read my recent essay on Slime Isekai, but I’ve been looking for something more than empty calories lately, even if I am being spoiled this season.
Maybe it’s because I doted too much on Horimiya, another light and breezy show this season, but I need something heavier. Admittedly, the next couple of reviews have that going for them, and there’s been some banger episodes of Re:Zero lately, but I’m just not in a place right now to like Tatoeba Last Dungeon as much as I should. If you have any recommendation for heavier shows, I’d like to see them in the comments.
I don’t like the feeling of my personal mood bringing a score down, so I’m attempting to strike a balance between my gut saying that I’m over with these kinds of shows, and the genuine merits that this one has to offer. If this kind of thing is for you, that’s great, I suggest you watch it, while I’ll keep my eye on it just to see if it manages to change my mind. 6/10